Ray Allen, a 10-time NBA All-Star, recently participated in a USO holiday tour with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. On this tour, the athlete, along with other celebrities, visited service members in Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Germany.
Now back in the states, Allen has spoken about much the trip meant to him, both as the son of an Air Force metals technologist and as a retired athlete.
NBA Legend Ray Allen meets with service members during a troop engagement at Incirlik Air Base, Dec. 5, 2016. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
One of the topics Allen touched on during an interview with Sports Illustrated was the way military terms pop up in sports discussions, even though they don’t really fit:
In the NBA, often times we’ll be in the locker room and we’ll talk about “going to war” and “going into battle” and “being in the foxhole,” all these terminologies that we equate with being at war. I have such a greater appreciation for the conflicts going on around the world, now I try to not use those terms out of respect.
NBA legend Ray Allen, left, fires an M240 machine gun at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area during this year’s USO Holiday Tour, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
Allen also told SI about how a comment from Dunford helped him appreciate the military’s expeditionary mindset, and how service members are constantly working to make sure that conflicts rarely come to American shores:
One of the things that General Dunford said that resonated with me was, “We’re over here at war, my job is to make sure that we have all away games.” So when I got back on U.S. soil, I thought about how privileged we are.
While speaking to USA Today, the NBA player took a moment to discuss how different life is in a combat zone, but that being there with professional warfighters made him feel safe:
“I (felt) more protected than I’ve ever felt in my life, being on that tour. I had some bad guys with me. Guys who knew how to handle weapons, that had been in combat. I’m looking to my left and right, and I’m like ‘I’m safe, I feel good about where I am, because these guys know what they’re doing.’ And that’s what I want to tell everybody, any athlete, from the NBA to baseball to football…join up with the USO and take a tour. It’ll give you a greater perspective on war, it’ll give you a greater perspective on the people that are fighting the war.”
As such, US Marines are still in Syria advising and providing fire support to SDF fighters, and sometimes reportedly at times even getting into direct fire fights (they’re also in country to deter Russian and Iranian influence, which the US largely denies or neglects to mention).
The US Air Force released some pretty incredible photos of US Marines training for those missions.
Check them out below:
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
“We can confirm this picture is of U.S. Marines conducting training on a 120mm mortar system in Syria on or about July 23, 2018,” Operation Inherent Resolve told Business Insider in an email.
The 120mm mortar has a range of up to five miles and a blast radius of 250 feet when it lands on a target. The Marines are using these indirect fire weapons to strike at ISIS positions and vehicles.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
Although OIR wouldn’t reveal where these pictures of US Marine mortarmen were taken, this picture was also taken by the same Air Force photog a few days earlier near Dawr az Zawr.
Dawr az Zawr is in eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, which has largely been a deconfliction line between US and Russian troops, and where US forces also killed about 200 Russian mercenaries in February 2018 that encroached into their area attempting to seize an oil field.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
While ISIS still has a presence in Syria, the civil war in Syria appears to be in its last throes, as Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken much ground and even recently began issuing death certificates for missing political prisoners taken before and during the civil war.
The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.
About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)
The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.
While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.
“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”
Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.
That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.
“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.
There’s a widespread belief that MPs will look the other way for other MPs in certain situations. Now, I am in no way saying that there should be unfair advantages given when it comes to the law. That being said, there is no denying that this practice exists in various ways.
MPs hold one another to a standard that is often a few pegs above the written, established standard. So, a lot of times the “looking out” comes in the form of keeping other MP to task and up to snuff when the human element rears its head. Sometimes, “looking out” means offering just a ride home — it depends on the variables.
4. People want to be cool with you… when they don’t hate you
Everyone wants to be cool with MPs. It means they’ll probably get through the gate on personal recognition a little more frequently and, if they have an encounter with an MP, it’ll likely be pleasant.
This rapport is typically built through politeness, a few well-timed store runs, and some glazed pastries.
3. Face of the base
These days, we hear a lot of references to the ‘tip of the spear.‘ The expression is typically reserved for those special few among us who are truly and undeniably badass.
As a Military Policeman, not only are you the first face to greet every single visitor and vehicle to enter the base, you are, by definition, the tip of that extremely local spear. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but hey, that is a pretty big deal.
2. Rapid maturity
Having an authority that supersedes rank can be a lot to handle. With young MPs, you typically get one of two types:
Type A is someone who has walked with a big stick for most of their life and now they have some actual weight behind their actions. They are likely to push the limits of their authority a bit further than most until they learn better.
Type B is someone who is timid and unsure of how to impose their authority the right away. They’re more likely to tiptoe towards competence with fewer mistakes along the slower road.
Both of these guys are going to have to make their way through the gauntlet fast if they hope to survive through their enlistments.
Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.
1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.
Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.
2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.
When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.
As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.
3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.
Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.
To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.
4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.
Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.
During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.
5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.
“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.
She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.
6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.
Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.
Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.
Whether or not you agree with the popular theory that the 1988 action picture “Die Hard” is really a Christmas movie, you’ll have to admit that NYPD detective John McClane is Bruce Willis’ greatest role.
There have been four sequels of varying quality over the past decades, but it had been seven years since Willis had played the part. That changed over the weekend when a new “Die Hard” movie showed up on YouTube.
“Die Hard” 2020 is actually a commercial for DieHard, the iconic battery brand formerly owned by Sears and now sold by Advance Auto Parts. The spot brings back a pair of iconic characters from the original movie.
McClane’s car won’t start and he heads to an auto parts store for a new battery. He runs into the original movie’s computer hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), who’s still out for revenge 32 years later.
Theo sends a posse of musclebound thugs to finish off the detective, who crashes through the store window to buy his new battery. After escaping through the ventilation system, he runs into limousine driver Argyle (De’voreaux White), who’s finally paid off the same car he was driving in the first movie.
As they try to get back to McClane’s broken-down muscle car, Theo runs them down and crashes into the limo. The DieHard battery takes a bullet but still works when installed and they crank up the car for an escape.
Will Theo get his revenge or will McClane escape again with a few more scars but still in one piece? You’ll have to watch for the result.
If you’re shocked that Bruce was willing to play John McClane in a commercial, he’s got some thoughts for you.
“I’ve never done any sort of commercial with the John McClane character, but Advance Auto Parts brought an idea to integrate DieHard the battery into the ‘Die Hard’ story through a short film that’s authentic to McClane and both brands,” Willis said in a press release.
“Advance approached this like a motion picture — the script is clever, the production intense and the spot is entertaining,” he continued.” This is what ‘Die Hard’ fans expect. I think they will dig the DieHard –‘Die Hard’ mashup.”
Back in the day before its release, the movie title was a clever play on an iconic brand name. Over the years, the movie became a brand that’s probably bigger than the battery ever was. And now we’ve come full circle: A battery looks to get a boost from a movie that once got a boost from the battery.
Enjoy the spot and don’t get your back up. Bruce’s movie career got jump started by DieHard back in the day and now he’s returning the favor.
Here’s the classic DieHard battery commercial that the movie title was supposed to evoke for audiences back in 1988.
Diehard Battery Ad – Sears Roebuck Auto Center (1976)
Gathering Storm is an intense new show on National Geographic featuring the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Each branch is highlighted as they race against time to complete vital missions during catastrophic storms.
Keo Films spent over a year developing the six-part series for National Geographic. The show will bring viewers inside the intensity of the world’s most powerful storms and outline the devastating impacts of climate change. Keo Films gave hundreds of cameras to maritime workers to document a year at sea and what happens during a major storm. Cameras also followed the three military branches serving in the midst of deadly storms.
The Coast Guard can usually be found right in the middle of it all, always ready.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul Roszkowski is a part of the leadership within the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office and was involved in the series from the start. “The Coast Guard worked with Keo Films for more than a year to coordinate filming part of our mission the public generally doesn’t get to see. This involved getting international film crews cleared to film at a moment’s notice at a number of Coast Guard units across the country and prestaging cameras at some units in case a storm formed. We are grateful to all of the units that participated in this which include USCGC Cypress, USCGC Alex Haley, Sector Guam and Sector Miami. Gathering Storm will give a peek behind the curtain of what Coast Guard personnel are doing before a major storm hits and the rescues start,” he shared.
Sector Miami is one of the busiest areas of responsibility for the Coast Guard. When hurricane season approaches, that responsibility increases tenfold. “We have two of the busiest cruise ports in the country… The port coordination team is vital. The decisions that are made [during a storm] are impactful. When we set those port conditions, the implications they have on all the stakeholders in the area are huge,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delgado explained.
As the Incident Management Division Chief for Sector Miami, Delgado worked closely with Keo Films for the series. “They were interested in seeing the preparation that goes into the ‘before the storm’ work. A group of people were here with us here in the sector building and also gave cameras to our teams that went out to verify pre-storm preparations. It was great working with the crew and they were very respectful of us and the work we had to do and didn’t impede it,” Delgado shared.
When hurricanes are approaching, the Coast Guard receives daily updates from the National Hurricane Center, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although the public has probably heard of the term “hurricane hunters,” they may not realize who’s flying many of those planes to gather vital weather data that gets dispersed to the Coast Guard: the United States Air Force.
In the first episode, viewers watch as the production crew follows members of Sector Miami navigating the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane which devastated the Bahamas and Abaco Islands in 2019. The damage left the islands in ruins and Hurricane Dorian was soon declared the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history. The Coast Guard saved the lives of over 400 people, flying and sailing through hurricane force winds and almost zero visibility to do it.
While the first two episodes focus on powerful hurricanes, the series then takes viewers into typhoon alley and through the roughest and most deadly fishing ground on the earth – the Bering Sea. Then watch as the Coast Guard and Navy rush to respond to typhoons in the Pacific, all while the Air Force is flying through the storms to gather the important data needed to respond.
“We featured the ‘Hurricane Hunters’ of the 53 Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the USAF Reserve, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Executive Producer Matt Cole said. He shared that he enjoyed getting to personally interview veteran Hurricane Hunter Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross about what it’s like flying into powerful storms.
Viewers will also watch the Navy become storm chasers with their advanced technology. “It was fascinating to see how the US Navy center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plays a lead role for the whole of that region in tracking typhoons and even providing life-saving forecasts. So, out there where typhoons are such a serious and life threatening problem, the forecasts provided by the US Navy using satellite data are invaluable,” Cole said.
The Keo Films also learned a lot during the filming process. For instance, prior to working on the series Cole and the film crew thought ships were safer in harbor during a storm – an assumption the Coast Guard was quick to correct.
“The folks who work out at sea face these huge storms at their fiercest. By filming with maritime workers on ships at sea we were able to capture the reality of cyclonic weather events and to track their development, through the eyes of these people who work in their path,” Cole explained. Although Hurricanes receive a lot of attention from the media during hurricane season, the show goes even deeper by revealing what it’s like to be in the middle of it all.
Film taken from over 1000 cameras paint a stark and terrifying picture of the impact of storms and climate change, felt on every corner of the globe. “I think that like us, the viewers of the series will come away with a lot more respect for the workforce that makes a living out on the ocean and the military teams that are on constant vigil to try to keep them safe when storms are brewing, through understanding the power and scale of the dangers they face,” Cole said.
The six-part series on National Geographic will air two episodes in a row each Saturday beginning August 15th, 2020 at 10pm.
On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.
9/11 changed them.
In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.
Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.
On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.
The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.
But he didn’t stop.
Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.
He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.
In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.
On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.
On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.
Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”
Shortly after the surviving forces of the Battle of Crete had evacuated, the British landed agents from the Special Operations Executive, also known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, to advise and assist the resistance and conduct intelligence gathering. Crete was heavily garrisoned and an important part of Germany’s plans both in the Mediterranean and Russia.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, the German general commanding the 22nd Airlanding Division and assigned as the military governor of Crete, had a reputation for brutality that earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Crete.” The British decided to hatch a plan to get rid of him. However, they wanted to do more than just kill him; they wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans everywhere.
Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss conceived the plan to kidnap General Müller at the Club de Chasse in Cairo in 1943. Along with two members of the Cretan resistance, George Tirakis and Manoli Paterakis, they planned to infiltrate the island, link up with other members of the resistance, abduct the general, and then get off the island. They intended to do all of this while foregoing bloodshed. They also wanted to make the Germans believe it was a British-only operation to avoid reprisals against the local Cretans.
Because, as we mentioned, Müller was an a-hole… even more than your average Nazi.
Everything was set to begin on February 4, 1944. The four men took off from Cairo and flew towards Crete ready to parachute onto the German-held island and begin their mission. Unfortunately, once over the drop zone, only Major Fermor jumped because of bad weather. The rest of the team tried a dozen more times before finally deciding to attempt a landing by sea. This was finally accomplished on April 4, but during the time between when Maj. Fermor landed on the island and the rest of the team arrived, General Müller was replaced by General Heinrich Kreipe. The British forged ahead with the abduction of Kreipe.
Fermor, dressed as a shepherd, reconnoitered the general’s daily routine and finalized the plan to take the general. On the night of 26 April, the four man team, with Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police, set up a fake checkpoint to catch the General’s car as he returned to his quarters for the night. When the general’s car stopped Fermor and Paterakis grabbed Kreipe while Moss clubbed the driver with a baton and with the help of Tirakis, pulled him from the car. While the Cretans moved General Kreipe to the back seat Fermor and Moss took up positions in the front seat impersonating the general and his driver.
The group then headed off to make their escape, successfully passing through 22 other checkpoints. After an hour and a half, Moss, the two Cretan members of the team, and the general left the vehicle with Fermor to abandon. He left the car on a beach on the north side of the island along with documents indicating that the kidnapping had been carried out by British Commandos and that the general had already been removed from the island as well as a note indicating how sorry they were to have to leave behind such a beautiful car.
The group rendezvoused with Fermor and began their trek to the south side of the island for the extraction back to Egypt. By the next day, the Germans issued a proclamation notifying the civilians on the island that if General Kreipe was not returned in three days reprisals would begin. Meanwhile, German troops scoured the island and planes took to the air to search for the group. The group evaded the Germans and hiked across Mount Ida while Fermor and Kreipe recited the poetry of Horace. The team finally reached the southern coast and was picked up by a British Motor Launch on 14 May 1944. They returned to Egypt where General Kreipe was interrogated before being transferred to a POW camp in Canada.
Major Fermor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Moss was given the Military Cross. General Kriepe was finally released by the British in 1947. In 1950, after censorship from the war had eased, Moss released his account of the operation in a book called Ill Met By Moonlight which itself was turned into a movie in 1957. Finally, in 1972 Kreipe was reunited with his kidnappers on a Greek TV show.
There’s something great about mixing violence and comedy. Stirring gore and laughs into the same pot is why horror and comedy often go hand in hand; think Army of Darkness, What We Do in the Shadows, and Zombieland. In the same way that some of the best zombie films trade screams for laughs, shootouts saturated in slapstick can be just as good as those with more serious battlefield heroics. As promised in “5 of the Most Memorable Shootout Scenes in Movie History,” here is the definitive list of the best comedic shootouts.
We’re starting the list off right with the best war comedy ever made (sorry, Stripes). Ben Stiller’s movie about a movie about a book that never happened was an instant classic. It’s safe to assume that anyone who spent time in combat after 2008 served alongside at least one person who quoted this movie under fire — it’s just that quotable. The Vietnam spoof opens with fake trailers and then lands in the middle of a hot LZ, where the rotor wash quickly stirs up equal clouds of hysterics and blood.
Quentin Tarantino is the master of aesthetic violence. From Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill, Tarantino uses excessive amounts of blood and guts to delight the senses. His 2012 Western Django Unchained might be the best example of Tarantino’s unmatched ability to make violence a joy to watch. The movie’s climactic gunfight pits Jamie Foxx against a plantation full of slavers and klansmen, and man does the scene deliver. Bullets seemingly whiz past the audience, and blood erupts in slow-motion geysers. Foxx wields a six-shooter better than The Duke himself, and it’s all set against a Tupac/James Brown mashup we never knew we needed. Enjoy.
Hot Fuzz is the only British comedy to make the list, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are an unstoppable comedy duo who deserve a list all their own. A supercop reluctantly partners with a Bad Boys fanboy to tear down a crime ring in a quaint English village. Their investigation into a string of murders comes to a head in the form of one of the funniest gunfights of all time. Complete with an old woman rocking an MP34 and a priest with a lethal trick up his sleeve, Hot Fuzz is worthy of an annual rewatch.
The 2008 stoner-comedy has great one-liners and a killer soundtrack, but it also has an underrated shootout. After witnessing a murder, Seth Rogen and James Franco attempt to take matters into their own hands. They quickly realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, and hilarity ensues as they tangle with violent drug traffickers. The epic gunfight takes place inside an underground marijuana farm and has everything from nonsensical hand-and-arm signals to AK-47s being fired overhead, Somali-style. It even has a fluorescent-lightbulb sword fight stuffed in the middle of it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re as high as the gunfighters or sober as a judge; you’re guaranteed to laugh.
21 Jump Street
Rounding off the list is the movie that made me stop hating Channing Tatum. The Magic Mike/GI Joe actor is actually hilarious. He teamed up with Jonah Hill to create one of the funniest gunfights in recent years. Johnny Depp makes a hilarious, albeit short-lived, cameo. Not yet Captain Marvel, Brie Larson trips balls while the bullets fly. The shootout is 10 minutes of laughs crammed into a gunfight between narcs, bikers, a track-and-field coach, and an angry girlfriend. Be sure to watch the entire movie, if only so you can see Rob Riggle get his dick shot off.
For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.
It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.
A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.
It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.
The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.
The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.
Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.
Claims piled up at the VA Regional Office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A $16 billion effort to give veterans lifetime electronic health records that meshed with the Pentagon’s has been marked by repeated delays and oversight failures that could have put patients at risk, according to reports from the VA Inspector General.
The IG reports released Monday detailed confusion in the overall implementation of the plan and failures to train staff and put in place adequate equipment for the pilot program, such as new laptops.
The first IG report, titled “Deficiencies in Infrastructure Readiness for Deploying VA’s New Electronic Health Record [EHR] System,” looked at how the Department of Veterans Affairs went about implementing the initial billion, 10-year contract with Cerner Corp. of Kansas.
The VA now estimates that the contract, awarded in May 2018 by then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie without competitive bidding, will now cost at least another billion for management and equipment.
The second report focused on delays and failures in the pilot program, even after it was scaled back from three test sites to one at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington.
One of the main findings of the second report was that patient safety at the Spokane facility could have been put at risk due to poor preparation for the planned switchover to the Cerner system in the pilot program.
The IG’s report found that the VA and the Spokane leadership failed to hire and train adequate staff to handle the transition, and overlooked the impact on how the hospital would continue to function while the inevitable kinks in the system were worked out.
“For example, online prescription refills, the most popular form for refilling prescriptions at the facility, was identified as a capability that would be absent when going live,” the IG’s report said of the pilot program at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “The OIG determined that the multiple work-arounds needed to address the removal of an online prescription refill process presents a patient safety risk.”
In addition, the IG found that the VA’s expanded program to allow veterans to choose community care — made policy by the Mission Act of 2018 — had suffered as the Spokane facility focused on the switchover to EHR.
“The OIG identified that facility leaders addressed recent in-house access to care challenges within primary care, but a significant backlog of 21,155 care in the community consults remained as of January 9, 2020,” the report said.
Outrage on the Hill
In May 2019, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie identified the transition to EHR as one of his top priorities, noting its potential “to change the way our veterans are treated, but also change the way we do business, to make the delivery of our services more efficient, make it more timely.”
In that same month, then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took a beating during a hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee when he projected a possible four-year delay in implementing the transition.
“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan.
“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”
Veterans were suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he added.
Over the years, previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems of the VA and DoD have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and about id=”listicle-2645875913″ billion spent.
The goal of the new effort to integrate the records was to overcome the track record of failure by the VA and the DoD to meet a congressional mandate to bring their separate medical records systems in line with one another, ensuring a seamless transition for service members to civilian life.
In its overview of the VA’s latest attempt, the IG report noted that “there are tremendous costs and challenges associated with this effort.”
Under the current plan the VA’s legacy information system — Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) — would be replaced by Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf solution called “Millennium.”
The plan was to have VA’s Millenium mesh with DoD’s electronic health record system — Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS — which at its core also consists of Cerner’s Millennium, the IG report said.
The ultimate connection of VA and DoD’s electronic health records “will result in a comprehensive, lifetime health record for service members,” the report said, improving health outcomes by giving providers more complete information.
However, the indefinite hold put on the pilot program in Spokane underlines the huge challenges ahead in implementing the transition as the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the IG said.
The report found widespread failure in VA’s preparations to start up the new system in Spokane.
“The lack of important upgrades jeopardizes VA’s ability to properly deploy the new electronic health record system and increases risks of delays to the overall schedule,” the report said. “Until modifications are complete, many aspects of the physical infrastructure existing in the telecommunications rooms [such as cabling] and data center do not meet national industry standards or VA’s internal requirements.”
The VA’s response essentially concurred with the findings and recommendations of the IG’s overview and the separate report on the pilot program in Spokane.
In his response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the VA was working to correct the problems with infrastructure and staffing noted by the IG.
“I appreciate the concerns regarding mitigation strategies and capabilities of the new electronic health records [EHR] system,” Stone said.
He said that as the target date was approaching for the launch of the pilot program in Spokane, “Secretary Wilkie received feedback from clinical and technical staff.”
“He decided to postpone the Go-Live so that the system can provide the greatest functionality at Go-Live and VHA staff are confident in providing care with the new system with the least mitigation strategies,” Stone said.